Songwriter finds inspiration at Shakesides – and becomes part of the story

Category : News

Robert Cordrey, a retired gardener, recently moved to Comox and ‘rambles’ often in Mack Laing Park. It was some time before he realized the place he loved had a story.

It was where I had spent hours birdwatching, plant learning and thinking ‘what a setting for a house‘,” he remarked.

Robert has been writing songs, mostly for friends and family, for 30 years and only recently began recording.

The song began after I took my 8 year old son and his friend down the creek to watch the salmon run last year and noticed their interest in Shakesides… and their lack of interest in the “viewing platform” where Baybrook had stood. Of course they wanted to go inside the boarded up old place!

The chorus popped out the next day while walking and then I began to research Mack Laing.”

The song, “Shakesides Dream” tells the story of Mack Laing, a revered Canadian naturalist and pioneer, who lived in Comox for most of his 99 years. He died in 1982. Shakesides is a house with heritage value that the Town of Comox is petitioning the Attorney General of BC to demolish. It was left in trust to the Town to turn into a public natural history museum – but was instead rented to a series of tenants until 2013.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has been trying to save the house, which is robust and easily repaired, since Baybrook, Mack Laing’s first home, was demolished in July 2015. He built Shakesides in 1949. The MLHS won a Heritage BC Award in 2016 for the work it has done to educate about Mack Laing.

Robert’s song expresses the unique quality of Shakesides:

this old house is a story

a good man`s life in 3D

60 years of gales and gardens

owl-eyed windows have seen

when the floorboards start creaking

his rocking chair will tell the tale

of birds and work and wonder

at the end of Mack Laing`s trail”

Shakesides – and its story – is important, and Robert hopes the house will be saved, not least of all for children. Although he admits he had to use a little poetic license in places, the sentiment rings true. The chorus says it all:

don`t take Shakesides dream

don`t put its treasure

in a dumpster with the beams

let our children lean from the windows

watching salmon swim upstream

please don`t take Shakesides dream

Listen to Robert Cordrey sing the song on Soundcloud ( ), or listen to the mp3 HERE:


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